The Boston Celtics (4-7) will look to cool off a visiting Portland Trail Blazers (9-3) squad on Sunday that has won six straight games and vaulted itself into consideration as one of the Western Conference's elite teams.
Boston, on the other hand, has lost four out of its last five games and three straight to the Blazers in regular-season play.
Projected Starting Lineups
Portland Trail Blazers
G Damian Lillard – 20.9 ppg, 6.8 apg, 5.2 rpg
G Wesley Matthews – 15.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg
F Nicolas Batum – 9.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 5.1 apg
F LaMarcus Aldridge– 21.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg
C Robin Lopez – 11.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg
G Rajon Rondo – 9.8 ppg, 11.0 apg, 7.7 rpg
G Avery Bradley– 14.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg
F Jeff Green – 18.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg
F Jared Sullinger – 15.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg
C Kelly Olynyk – 12.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg
What To Watch For:
Will Damian Lillard continue his hot streak?
The Portland Trail Blazers star got out of the gates slowly in 2014-15, but he has been molten hot ever since. In the team's last five games, Lillard is averaging 25.8 points (on 56.4 percent shooting) and 8.4 assists per game. He's also hit 20 of 31 threes, stretching defenses to their breaking point during the team's current winning streak. Boston will need to find a way to stifle Lillard on the perimeter to have a shot on Sunday.
The first quarter is critical for the young Celtics
The Boston Celtics have been inconsistent at best in 2014-15, and a lot of that has to do with the way they start games off. Boston is averaging 27.2 points allowed in the first quarter during its first 11 games, landing near the bottom of the NBA in that category. Boston will need to start humming in its defensive rotations early and often in this one, because Portland has the talent to run teams out of the gym before the halftime whistle.
Prediction: Blazers win 109-105
The Blazers' defense has been much less suffocating without their raucous Moda Center faithful cheering behind them, and this Boston Celtics team will come into Sunday's contest with something to prove. Give the decided edge to the Portland Trail Blazers, but don't be surprised if this particular game comes down to the last couple of possessions.